This reading group is concerned with the technical. It addresses the work of tools, the manipulation of matter, the function of machines. It evaluates a range of material practices, from craft to information technology. It tackles questions of knowledge – what it means to “know” technically – and questions of being – the relationship, often intractable, between human subjects and technical objects. It considers technology as an instrument of power and entertains it as a force for liberation. It aims to explore and compare ways in which scholars across the humanities have attempted to mobilise, engage with, and understand technical objects and technical modes of cultural activity.
Readings will include theoretical accounts of technology (Heidegger, Haraway, Stiegler, Simondon) and case-studies of specific technologies (the phonograph, Galileo’s telescope, optical fibre cables, sixteenth-century privies). Each session will be devoted to a single, short text: either an article or a book chapter. Readings will be selected from a shared list – open to additions from all members of the group – at the end of each session. We will aim to meet every 2-3 weeks throughout the semester. For more information please contact